Saturday, February 13, 2010

Kefir Yogurt Smoothie with Blackberries, Blueberries, Raspberries, and Strawberries


If you want to do something good for your body, you should eat (or drink!) cultured and fermented foods. Without getting into the gory details TOO much, your entire gut, from one end to the other, is supposed to be lined with "good" bacteria and microbes. These friendly passengers help break down the food you eat so it can be digested by your body. The thing is, sometimes "bad" bacteria can set up camp in your gut, and it can make you sick. If you don't have enough good bacteria, sometimes protein isn't broken down sufficiently before it gets into your blood stream, and then your body mistakes it for an invader, which can cause food allergies. (think about it, all the major allergens are proteins: nuts, milk casein, eggs, gluten, shellfish, etc.) Sometimes those bad bacteria release toxins, which can cause migraines, body aches, inflammation, fibromyalgia, etc. (and of you are a subscriber to the GAPS theory, it also contributes to autism, ADD, depression, eczema, etc.)

So if you want to do something really good for your body, you should eat (or drink!) cultured and fermented foods. These food replenish your gut with friendly helper bacteria (you can, and should, also take probiotics, but I've heard that probiotics only get down so far in the gut, and you need fermented and cultured foods to get all the way down). Some of these foods include the familiar sauerkraut, kosher pickles, yogurt, and buttermilk, and some of the less familiar include kombucha tea, kimchi, and kefir. I think one of the easiest ways to do this is to eat organic whole milk yogurt with nuts and honey mixed in, but I've heard that kefir, a sort of yogurt drink, has a much higher culture count and is that much better for you.


The thing is, kefir all by itself is kind of, well, yucky. It's just SO sour. And as a beverage, it's SO thick. The first time I decided to buy a bottle, it sat in my fridge untouched until I threw it out.

Now that is really a shame, because, like most foods, kefir just needs to be prepared properly to be delicious. If you treat it like an ingredient instead of a convenience food, it makes a lot more sense. I wouldn't eat a raw steak, a plain stick of butter, or an uncooked potato, and now I know I also don't want to drink plain kefir. Eat it plain, not so good. Prepare it well, and it's absolutely delicious.


Kefir Smoothie with Blackberry, Blueberry, Raspberry, and Strawberry
Makes 1 smoothie, double, triple etc. for more servings

You can, of course, use plain organic yogurt instead of kefir, but it is going to be thicker, so you will need to add a little juice or milk to get it to a liquid consistency. I am using Trader Joe's frozen berry mixture, but you can use whatever forzen berry mixture you want to, or any other frozen fruit. I do recommend you either go with frozen fruit or freeze whatever seasonal fruit you want to use. It's just a little strange drinking a warm smoothie!

The berries can be a bit tart, so I recommend adding 1-2 tablespoons honey to even out the flavor. You can also use agave necter or whatever other type of sweetener you prefer.

1 cup plain kefir
1 cup frozen mixed berries
1-2 tablespoons honey

in a blender, combine 1 cup plain kefir...

... and 1 cup frozen mixed berries.

Top with 1 to 2 tablespoons honey (I just give it a big squeeze).

blend on high, 2 - 3 minutes, serve.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Deep Dark Decadent Chocolate Mousse


When I was a little girl, my mom would take my sister and I out to Sizzler every now and then to eat at the salad bar. We weren't exactly rolling in the money those days, so it was a special treat to go out to a restaurant with mom. And of course, we thought that Sizzler was SO fancy. They had cloth napkins, real plates, waitresses who brought you stuff if you asked for it, and at the end of the meal, chocolate mints on a little tray with the receipt. If there was one thing my sister and I knew, it was that Sizzler was a classy place.

And of course, we loved the salad bar. We always ate the same thing: canned peaches, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese toast, and if we were especially good, chocolate mousse. Oh, we loved chocolate mousse. Other than the chocolate mints, it was the highlight of the meal, the thing we looked forward to from the moment we stepped in the door. Chocolate mousse was the ultimate ending to a fine dining experience, and my little sister and I looked on chocolate mousse as something so classy, so undeniably fancy, that only Sizzler could make it right.


So I am sure you can imagine how completely crushed we were, as adults, to learn that Sizzler no longer features chocolate mousse as part of their salad bar. Is devastation too strong a word? HARDLY.

Thankfully this story does have a happy ending, and I think we both know it's going to end with a recipe. Though I am sure I am remembering Sizzler's chocolate mousse through the rose-tinted glasses of childhood innocence, this recipe is pretty knock-down good (as good as the original I'll wager), and it's simple too. And of course, you should feel free to mix it up and put your own twist on the recipe: espresso powder, raspberries, mint extract, caramel ribbons - go wild! Or stick with the classic original. Either way, it's sure to be classy.


Deep Dark Decadent Chocolate Mousse
Adapted from Everyday Food
Serves 4 (or 2, of you are feeling extra decadent!)

It's important to use a high quality dark chocolate in this recipe. If you try to use milk chocolate it will "seize" up, turn hard, and be ruined. You also want a high quality chocolate since the flavor is really going to shine through. I used the 72% Swiss dark chocolate from Trader Joe's (I think!), but I am sure there are plenty of good options out there on the market.

3 oz bittersweet dark chocolate, 60% or higher, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt

1. Over LOW heat, whisk 4 large egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, anda pinch of salt until sugar is dissolved, and mixture is warm to the touch (2 to 3 minutes). Remove from heat, and whisk in 3 oz chopped bittersweet dark chocolate. Whisk until chocolate is completely melted, then mix in 2 tablespoons cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth.

2. In a stand mixer (or a medium bowl, if you are a sucker for punishment), whip 3/4 cup heavy cream cream until light and fluffy, and soft peaks form (don't over mix, or you will get butter!). With mixer on low, gently mix in 1/2 of the chocolate. Gently fold in remaining chocolate by hand with a rubber spatula. Divide among serving dishes and chill for at least 1 hour, and up to 2 days. Top with whatever pleases your fancy. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Warm Potato Gratin with Goat Cheese and Garlic


It's another rainy day here in southern California, and to be honest, I couldn't be more pleased. I LOVE rain. I love the sound it makes, the way it leaves the air so pure, and the earth so fresh and green. We haven't had a good rainy season here since at least 2005, so this is a rare treat and a blessing. I want to revel in every minute of it and treat myself to as many warm cups of tea, lazy afternoons snuggled up with a blanket and a good book, and winter comfort foods as possible!


Now if you live anywhere else in the world other than California, you are probably snowbound, grumbling about heating bills, and rolling your eyes right now. I know, I know. We have year round perfect weather, WE POOR CALIFORNIANS. Boo hoo us, right? I'm sorry. We make up for it with horrendous traffic, smog, and outrageous housing costs. Does that make you feel better? I thought so.

On to the food! This potato dish is something I have had on my "Cook this!" list for at least a year, and I don't know why I waited so long, because it is fantastic! If you like garlic (oh! I do!) and if you like goat cheese (oh! I really, really do!) you are going to love this. Meltingly tender with a tang of goat cheese and the rich roundness of garlic and cream.


Warm Potato Gratin with Goat Cheese and Garlic
Adapted from

I suppose you can use any potato for this, but I love the Yukon Gold potatoes especially, and rumor has it they are better for you too. Of course, the FULL CUP OF CREAM might negate that, but who's counting anyway? Besides, beach season is soooo far away, and it's cold NOW. So lets enjoy warm comforting dishes now, and leave the calorie counting to, oh, May. Deal?

This is also one of those recipes that are impossible to get pictures of. It's always eaten up before I can get a shot! I have made this over and over again since we first tried it at Christmas, and this is the first time I was able to get pictures. So don't expect there to be leftovers, because it goes fast!

3-4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1 cup whole milk
1 cup cream
5 oz soft fresh goat cheese (about 1 cup crumbled)
8 - 10 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Take 8 - 10 garlic cloves...

...and finely mince them.

Now get 3-4 pounds of Yukon Gold potatoes...

... and peel them...

... until they are all peeled. Slice them thinly (about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thickness. I use my food processor slicing attachment, because I am lazy like that).

Now take 5 oz goat cheese...

... and place it in a mixing bowl.

Add in 1 cup heavy cream...

...and mix it together with the goat cheese, breaking up the goat cheese with a wooden spoon. (By the way, you can do all of this in a stand mixer, just be sure not to overmix the cream. Otherwise, you will end up with... garlic and goat cheese whipped cream. Yuck!)

Now add 1 cup whole milk and whisk until smooth.

Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt...

DSC_0131 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper...

...and 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg.

Finish by adding the the minced garlic

Now you need, an empty baking dish. You want it to be empty, because we are going to put stuff in it.

Add enough of the cream mixture to coat the bottom of the pan, then layer on some of the sliced potatoes.

Fill the pan with 1/3 of the potatoes, and top with 1/3 of the garlic goat cheese cream.

layer another 1/3 of potatoes and 1/3 of cream, then the third 1/3 of potatoes and 1/3 of cream. Are you confused yet? I hope not. Otherwise you will screw it up FOREVER! Ok, not really. Make sure the top layer is pretty and neatly arranged, since you are going to have to look at it when you take it out. Or don't make sure: prettiness is subjective anyway.

Bake in preheated oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until potatoes are tender and top is golden.